Making and registering the application
Although no time limit is specified in the LITP, a foreigner is in practice expected to seek international protection (i.e. express the intention to lodge an application) at a police administration, a police station, at border crossing points, in Reception Centre for Foreigners or in the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection within a reasonable time after entering the country.
In 2022, in total 12,872 intentions to lodge applications for international protection were expressed. Out of the total number of intentions, the largest number of intentions was expressed at border police stations (10,087). The rest were expressed at police stations (2,318), the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Ježevo (138), Pleso Airport police station (137), police administrations (112), the Transit Reception Centre for Foreigners in Tovarnik (50) and the Transit Reception Centre for Foreigners in Trilj (30).
As soon as a foreigner expresses the intention to seek protection during a border control at a border crossing point, competent officials will refer him or her to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, and if necessary determine the time period within which he or she must report to the Reception Centre to lodge the application.
In practice, a person may express such an intention even after having been found irregularly crossing the state border or at a later stage, during further proceedings related to irregular border crossing. After the foreigner has been apprehended and transferred to a police administration or station, the police officer makes a report and hands the person over to officers in charge of irregular migration for further proceedings. These police officers will conduct an interview with the foreigner in the police station to determine the person’s identity, perform a security check and conduct an informative interview. If the foreigner expresses the intention to seek international protection at any stage of this procedure, the procedure should be suspended and the person will have the right to stay in Croatia until a final decision is taken on the application for international protection. However, many problems have been reported since 2017 in accessing the territory and the asylum procedure (see Access to the Territory).
Border officers, the police station / police administration or the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection shall register the applicant in the records of the Ministry of Interior no later than 3 working days from the day the applicant expressed the intention to apply for international protection. If the intention was expressed before some other body, the Reception Centre shall register the applicant in the records of the Ministry within 6 working days from the day when he or she expressed his or her intention. The authority which undertook registration shall issue a certificate of registration of the applicant in the records of the Ministry.
The Border Directorate reported in 2018 that, according to Standard Operational Procedure (SOP) for police in relation to the asylum procedure, police officers are not competent for assessing the reasons why international protection is sought. In addition, in an official note which is sent to the competent organisational unit of the Ministry, the police transmits information on the circumstances of irregular migration as well as personal data referred to in Article 15 LITP which are essential for assessing if there is a need for special reception and procedural guarantees e.g. for pregnant women, elderly, disabled persons, unaccompanied children.
After having expressed the intention to seek international protection, the applicant is given a registration certificate (potvrda o registraciji) which contains the following details: authority issuing the certificate; date of issuance; name; date, place and country of birth; nationality; sex; place, address and time the person is required to report to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection to lodge the application; signature of the official; and stamp.
The certificate proves that the person is registered in the information system of the Ministry of Interior as the applicant for international protection. The certificate shall be issued by the competent police administration or police station and the Reception Centre for Foreigners if they registered a person as an applicant in the information system. Exceptionally, the certificate may be issued by the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection if they conducted registration.
Lodging the application
After reporting to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, an applicant shall be enabled to formally lodge an application as soon as possible and no later than 15 days from the registration of his or her status in the records of the Ministry of Interior. The authority conducting registration indicates in the registration certificate the time and place where the applicant has to report.
In certain cases, involving vulnerable persons or for other humanitarian reasons, applicants will be accompanied by police officers to the Reception Centre for applicants for international protection.
If, after having expressed the intention to apply for international protection, a foreigner does not report to the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection without a justified reason, the Ministry of Interior will ex officio discontinue the procedure; according to LITP it shall be deemed that the applicant has withdrawn the application if he or she does not appear at the Reception Centre or avoids lodging an application and fails to justify this within 2 days of the time limit set for appearing at the Reception Centre, or for lodging an application.
If the person is apprehended in an irregular situation once the deadline for an appeal has passed as well as the deadline to leave the European Economic Area, the provisions of the Law on Foreigners will apply. In particular, this means that the person will be considered to be an irregular migrant and will be detained for the purposes of removal.
The Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection is the competent authority for conducting interviews for the purpose of receiving applications for international protection. The application is usually lodged at the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, and only exceptionally outside the Reception Centre within an appropriate period, depending on personal circumstances of the applicant, for example where he or she is detained in the Reception Centre for Foreigners (pre-removal detention centre), the Transit Reception Centre for Foreigners or in prison.
The procedure for international protection is initiated by lodging the application. In practice this means that the application is submitted orally by the person seeking protection in front of the state officials of the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection’. Officials will draft minutes of the interview. The civil servants of the Reception Centre conduct a short interview to collect the following information: personal data of the applicant, information on military service, family and other relations, information on the journey from country of origin (type of transportation and route) and the reasons (in short) why they fled their country of origin. All documents, including the minutes of the first interview, are then sent to the Department for international protection procedure within the Ministry of Interior, which is responsible for conducting a further substantive interview and examining the application.
Besides that, civil servants in the Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection take fingerprints and photos of the applicants, provide them with information on the procedures, their rights and obligations, and issue the applicants’ identity card.
The Ministry of Interior informed the Croatian Law Centre that delays in the organisation of interviews for the purpose of lodging applications for international protection occurred in 2018, in situations where guardians were not appointed to unaccompanied children on time. According to the Ministry, the most common cases where delays occurred were those where the competence of the Social Welfare Centre had changed. No further information on this topic was provided by the Ministry for the period between 2019 and 2022.
After the application has been lodged, the applicant receives an international protection applicant card (iskaznica tražitelja). The card shall be issued within three days from the lodging of the application and confirms the right of residence in the Republic of Croatia until the completion of the procedure. An applicant’s card does not constitute proof of identity. The card is not issued if the person applies at the border. In 2022, applicants’ cards were issued to 2,520 persons.
However, Croatia is still a transit country as it is estimated that majority of applicants for international protection leave the country approximately very soon after expressing intention to apply for international procedure. In 2020, the Ministry of Interior suspended a total of 1,674 cases for that reason. The trend has continued in 2021 and 2022.
Out of the total number of expressed intentions to apply for international protection (12,872) in 2022, only 2,727 persons submitted application for international protection.
High percentages (approximately 80% in the period June 2021-June 2022) of applicants leaving Croatia soon after entering asylum system were reported by the independent monitoring mechanism.
 Croatian Law Centre, The Croatian Asylum System in 2022- National Report ; The report was prepared as part of the project “Legal Assistance and Capacity Building for Access to Territory and Asylum in Croatia“, with financial support of the UNHCR Croatia: available in English at: https://bit.ly/434T7RL.
 Article 33(1) LITP.
 The Reception Centre is also the place where asylum seekers have to report themselves after expressing their intention to lodge an asylum claim and where interviews are conducted.
 Article 33(9) LITP.
 Information provided by the Border Directorate, 17 August 2018.
 Article 3(2) Ordinance on the forms and data collection in the procedure for international and temporary protection.
 Article 3(3)-(5) Ordinance on the forms and data collection in the procedure for international and temporary protection.
 Article 34(2) LITP.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 10 August 2018.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 13 February 2018.
 Article 39(2)(1) LITP.
 Article 34(3) LITP.
 Article 34(1) LITP.
 Information provided by the Ministry of Interior, 28 January 2019.
 Article 62(1) LITP.
 Article 62(2) LITP.
 Croatian Law Centre, The Croatian Asylum System in 2022- National Report ; The report was prepared as part of the project „Legal Assistance and Capacity Building for Access to Territory and Asylum in Croatia“, with financial support of the UNHCR Croatia: available in English at: https://bit.ly/434T7RL.
 Croatian Law Centre, The Croatian Asylum System in 2022 – National Report; The report was prepared as part of the project “Legal Assistance and Capacity Building for Access to Territory and Asylum in Croatia“, with financial support of the UNHCR Croatia: available in English at: https://bit.ly/434T7RL.
 Annual Report of the Independent Mechanism of Monitoring the actions of police officers of the Ministry of the Interior in the area of illegal migration and international protection, June 2021 – June 2022, available in in Croatian at https://bit.ly/3FKhkDQ and in English at: https://bit.ly/3FMRcbD.